Jun 30, 2008


We got our copy of Opera Now in the mail today (remember my British chums from the Opera conference?) Editor Ash Khandekar has a notably salient and articulate editorial about the future of opera and the need to innovate to grow audiences.

Khandekar points to New York City Opera, which is soon to be led by Gerard Mortier. Under his leadership, City Opera will be producing a season of modern works, which conventional wisdom would deem "commercial suicide." But "art is no place for complacency," writes Khandekar.

It will certainly be interesting to see how the innovations at City Opera play out, come 2009 when Mortier takes the helm. (I'm having visions of a Celebrity Smackdown...Mortier versus the Met's Peter Gelb. Who said opera was boring??!)

Jun 27, 2008


Have a terrific weekend, peeps.
(Carl Sagan has nothing on these Cosmos.)

Jun 26, 2008


Last week I bid adieu to Jenn, our Development Analyst and Special Events Coordinator (it's a requisite that all job titles at Opera Cleveland be no shorter than 35 characters.) Apparently, she thinks working at Ohio State will be more fun than the opera. (Apparently, she is lame.) Regardless, I will still miss her stories, yippy hiccups and general fabulousness.

Bye, Jenn! (Who will flirt with me at the office now??)

While I miss Jenn, I'm getting to bond with her replacement Brett (yes, she has a boy's name; get over it.) She's a sassy lass. I've been helping her learn the ropes around the office--like how to avoid chipping in for water for the water cooler (Drink from puddles, dude; there is no reason to pay for water.)

Jun 24, 2008


This past weekend, I donned my feathers (my usual feathers AND a sassy feather boa) for Cleveland PRIDE. Opera Cleveland had a booth there--well, until torrential rain and hurricane-force wind forced us to abandon it. (Dang if I didn't see a drag queen running by shouting "It's a twista'! It's a twista'!")

We adorned our booth with some props and costumes from productions. Those who stopped by were really positive about the opera and looking forward to our next production. (Or else they were just really good liars.)

PRIDE is nothing if not colorful.

Jun 19, 2008


One of the things I wanted to do at the OPERA America conference was meet Marc Scorca, President and CEO of the organization. But apparently he is a busy guy (who knew?!) However, I did snag an interview with him, post conference. (Sure to be a career highlight for him, NO DOUBT.) Thanks so much for taking the time for my questions, Marc!
This photo is an Photoshop dramatization of what would have happened if we had actually met: I would have perched on Marc's shoulder and provided profound counsel. We would become BFFs, and he would ask me to lead a session at next year's conference, titled "A Feather in your Cap: The Manifold Advantages of Adding Poultry to your Opera Productions."

What did you personally hope to get out of the conference, and did you?
I hoped we could demonstrate that collaboration among national service organizations at the national level would deliver benefits to all our members across the country and I think we succeeded. The quality of the program and speakers – such as Jim Collins and Jose Antonio Abreu – inspired our members, and was only possible with the resources of our combined effort. The energy generated from the combined experience and perspective of artists and administrators from all the disciplines added a level of intensity that is usually missing from our stand-alone annual conferences.

What are your thoughts on the results of the caucus meetings and the closing Town Meeting?
This was one of the highpoints for me. I was skeptical about our members’ willingness to participate in the caucus roundtables. After two days, though, this was the most talked-about element of the Convention. I walked with people who were rushing to the Convention Center for the next caucus. I overheard people talking about what they learned from other people at their table. Many attendees have reported to me that they were deeply moved by the commitment and brilliance of the people they met at the caucuses. The Town Hall Meeting itself was noteworthy for the energy and good will among participants. Further, we have – for the first time – clear input from our many members about the priorities they would like us to advance with their active participation.

What was your personal highlight from this conference?
As I left the Town Hall Meeting on Saturday a composer stopped me. He told me he had been a volunteer at Ground Zero for two weeks after September 11. (This is a very emotional topic for me, coincidentally.) He went on to say that no event since then has galvanized his commitment to the arts in a way that was achieved during the Convention. I thanked him and then had a good cry. We wanted the Convention to be THAT important and, for this man, it was.

What do you hope all of the attendees took home with them?
I hope they took home with them a heightened appreciation of the level of energy that can be generated by working collaboratively with colleagues from other arts organizations and other disciplines. I hope, too, they brought home a new level of focus on the priorities that were established in the Town Hall Meeting, along with many ideas about how to advance toward our shared vision.

There's certainly a dearth of roles for poultry in opera. Do you think the new generation of composers will finally realize the dramatic potential we chickens possess?
I hope that after the Convention you would be willing to think more broadly than chickens. You indicate a willingness to consider poultry in general. But it would be great – and a tribute to the Convention – if you could push beyond your comfort zone to consider the experience and perspective of other livestock. Imagine the influence you could have if you worked together!

Jun 17, 2008


As usual with any sort of trip (not that kind, hippies!), it has taken me a few days to recover after returning. Now that I have had ample time of sitting on my arse, I am ready to rhapsodize once more about my experience at the OPERA America conference.

On Thursday night I took the "party bus" to Central City to see The Rape of Lucretia. (Except the very thin mountain air put a kabosh on partying. At least that's what my pal Lisa Kelly, who is assistant stage managing there this summer, suggested--and she's not one to abstain from the spirits.)

I'm bummed I didn't get a photo of this but before the house opens, the ushers march down the street singing the "Opening the House" song. (Can you imagine the Red Coats strolling down Euclid Ave. in song?...No wait, actually I can see that.)

Atmosphere aside, I really enjoyed the performance. It's some brutal subject matter but it's Britten so to be expected. The opera house (above) was small in that old-west sort of way, as well as charming in that old-west sort of way. Phyllis Pancella as Lucretia and Brian Mulligan as Tarquinius gave standout performances. My seatmate Christopher Mohr, a composer, gave me a copy of his Naxos CD, From The Realm Of The Shadow.

Two operas in two days?! That's what I'm talking about. Friday night was Nixon in China at Colorado Opera. First things first: my seat at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House was uber comfy AND there was a supertitle monitor built into the back of each seat. Marin Alsop (the Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony) conducted a really well-performed Nixon. Robert Orth, who sings the role of Nixon all over the world, was matched by the talents of Maria Kanyova as Pat Nixon. But I was particularly psyched to see Thomas Hammons play Kissinger because he will be performing Bartolo in Opera Cleveland's Figaro and Barber (Hammons, not Kissinger--though that would be quite amusing.)

During the performance, I sat by Don Davis and Kate Gale, composer and librettist, respectively of Rio de Sangre. (Note to my boss: I want to go to this premiere, Will. Pony up!) At the open bar before the performance, (thin air be damned!) I got to meet former singer Pamela Pantos.

It was an awesome few days in Denver, but I'm also glad to be back in my coop. There's no place like...Opera Cleveland.

Jun 13, 2008


The last few days have felt like a metamphetamine drug orgy, except instead of drugs I'm tweaked out on opera. (Opera use is much better for the teeth.)

It's almost overwhelming--all there is to see, hear and do. Yesterday was the OPERA America keynote address, which Marc Scorca (OPERA America's Prez & CEO) opened. The highlight was hearing Gerard Mortier from New York City Opera. We watched a spectacular video sample of the innovative Tristan and Isolde production he had directed. He opined that, while technology should certainly be utilized to bring opera to more people, presenting LIVE opera to our audiences must always remain our #1 objective. (Amen, brother.)

Yesterday afternoon, I attended the New Works Sampler. Artists from Central City Opera and Opera Colorado performed excerpts from five new productions. My faves were Elmer Gantry by Robert Aldridge, Hannaraptor by Allan Gilliland, and Frau Margot by Thomas Pasatieri.

Of course, everyone wants their photo with me:

Me and two of the OPERA America peeps running this big ole shindig--
Alexa Antopol, Research Manager, and Paul Gosselin, Membership/Development Manager. (How could they not WANT me in that dapper tuxedo?)

These ladies are from the non-profit Opera On Tap. Anne Ricci,
General Managing Diva, andJessica Miller-Rauch, Co-Manager & Marketing Diva.
(Yes, those are really their titles.)
They take the snob out of opera...and add beer.

My mates Scott Wellstead and Louise Deans from Opera Now. Cheers!


Wow...I mean, WOW.

I knew I'd meet a lot of cool people at the opera conference, but I'm so floored to have met Mr. Sherrill Milnes!

I personally keep a copy of his legendary Tosca recording on my bookshelf, but I didn't realize until yesterday that he has performed in Cleveland. In 1990, he played The Count di Luna in Cleveland Opera's Il Trovatore. More recently, Mr. Milnes hosted Opera Cleveland's First Night Concert that launched the new company.

A good day to be a chicken. A good day.

Jun 12, 2008


A big day yesterday at the OPERA American conference.
After the omelet fiasco, we headed to the Convention Center.

First up was the Electronic Media forum. Use technology to bring opera to the people and people to the opera, etc, etc. (I was like 'it's called a blog.')

Later, I helped set up our display space in the exhibit hall. (For your Opera Cleveland 2009 season brochure, click here!) We perused the other exhibits and picked up swag. (And by swag, I mean pens. And by pens, I mean What the hell cluck?!) I talked up the nice folks at Opera Now magazine, who came all the way from London.

There were literally thousands of people at the Opening General Session, but I preferred the Breakout Caucus "Building a Performing Arts Community." I held my own in a feisty group of ten. (Shout out to our moderator Ruth: Holla'!)

That night I had an offer to go to Rockies game by Jaimee of Opera Carolina. I was a little wary of her intentions but I also had to dutifully attend the Marketing Network dinner. I met some really awesome people but I spent a good part of the evening discussing the finer points of the English language with the Opera Now folks. (We're right good mates now!)

I was so enamored of my Brit pals, I went looking online last night for British chickens. (Purely platonic, I swear!) I came across The Hencam - a 24/7 look into a chicken coop in the UK. Really?! No offense to my genetic brethren, but I'd rather have my wings clipped than sit and watch your boring lives. A webcam focused on my coop would be a completely different story. (And perhaps not PG rated.)

Jun 11, 2008


Normally I am not a big fan of airplanes. I feel a bit affronted by the fact that this hulking mass of metal has wings and it can fly, yet I have wings, feathers, hollow bones, the whole aviary shebang and I can't fly. Hmpfh.

But this flight was not too bad. There were no screaming rugrats to disturb my reading The New Yorker (oh, Calvin Trillin, you slay me!) I rebuffed the flight attendant's offer for earphones to watch the asinine in-flight movie Definitely, Maybe. (Definitely Not. I don't care how perfectly chiseled Ryan Reynolds' face is.)

I'm staying with my handler Paul at the Hyatt in Denver. So posh! (Remember, I work at a non-profit; anything with clean sheets and air conditioning is posh).

I got a little reading in with some complementary hotel books.
"Even as a hen gathereth her own brood
under her wings..." (Lk 13:34).

I clucked in disapproval at hotel prices.
I can buy two cans of Schlitz for $4.50!

I woke up early and ordered room service. WTF? An omelet?! Don't they know what these are made of?? Pass the Cheerios, please.

Our first session starts at 9 am today. I'll have lots of opera-goodness to share later.

Jun 10, 2008


I'm hitting the road sky later today. (In a CARRY ON--where is the dignity??) For the next few days, I will be attending the annual Opera Conference along with some co-workers. (I'm kinda thinking I will be the only farm animal there--unless The Met has latched onto the idea and brings an Opera Alpaca. Doubtful.)

While we're there, I'll be catching Nixon in China (at least Dick was good for something) at Colorado Opera and The Rape of Lucretia (really unfortunate name) at Central City Opera.

If you're at the conference, make sure to look for me. I'll be the one in the tux.

Jun 6, 2008

Chillin' with my peeps

This weekend I'm just hangin' at my coop with a few chicks. Hot.

Jun 4, 2008


Normally I do not have the patience for words that are longer than four syllables. Encyclopedia? Hippopotamus? C'mon, who has the time or the phonics for that crap?

I will make an exception, though, for the artfully cadenced word supernumerary. Love it.

In the film industry, there are extras. In the opera world, there are supernumeraries. (Though most people will shorten it to supers, which I disdain because it sounds like they are superintendents of apartment buildings.) Both are actors without speaking or singing parts who usually appear in crowd scenes.

This is why I think supernumeraries are great: you can be in an opera and not have a whit of vocal talent! Of course, each production has its own criteria for its supernumeraries. An opera could call for a group of small children, a man with a WWF physique, two teenage girls, etc. Sometimes roles also call for particular experience, like dancing, juggling or fire-eating. (Eating fire: always better than eating poultry.) Also, Opera Cleveland, for instance, often rents costumes from other companies, so supernumerary roles may be filled according to the sizes we have. (Hey, Ms. Director of Production, are there any upcoming productions with chicken-sized costumes???)

If you might be interested in being a supernumerary (if just for the fabulous title), Cliff might be able to hook you up. Email him at Wilson@operacleveland.org.